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Ananda Coomaraswamy, late curator of Indian art at the Boston Museum of Fine Arts, was unexcelled in his knowledge of the arts of the Orient, and unmatched in his understanding of Indian culture, language, religion, and philosophy. In this excellent reprint of a rare volume of essays, he reveals the essence of the Indian experience, rooted in "a constant intuition" of the Ananda Coomaraswamy, late curator of Indian art at the Boston Museum of Fine Arts, was unexcelled in his knowledge of the arts of the Orient, and unmatched in his understanding of Indian culture, language, religion, and philosophy. In this excellent reprint of a rare volume of essays, he reveals the essence of the Indian experience, rooted in "a constant intuition" of the unity and harmony of all life. Everything has its place, every being its function and all play a part in the divine concert led by Natarājā (Śiva), Lord of Dancers. In a series of 14 stimulating and provocative essays, Coomaraswamy unfolds the vast metaphysic of India: the magnificent revelation of its art; its conception of the universe; social organization; attitudes toward feminism; problems of family; romantic love, and marriage. His sweeping commentary considers the "intellectual fraternity" of mankind; the venerable past as it survives side by side with emerging modern India; and the individual, autonomy, and repudiation of "the will to govern." Enhancing the text are 27 black-and-white photographs — mostly of masterpieces of painting and sculpture from the second century B.C. to the eighteenth century, and including the glorious "Cosmic Dance of Nàtaraja." This handsome volume offers rich insight into the art, philosophy, and culture of a fascinating forty-centuries-old civilization.


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Ananda Coomaraswamy, late curator of Indian art at the Boston Museum of Fine Arts, was unexcelled in his knowledge of the arts of the Orient, and unmatched in his understanding of Indian culture, language, religion, and philosophy. In this excellent reprint of a rare volume of essays, he reveals the essence of the Indian experience, rooted in "a constant intuition" of the Ananda Coomaraswamy, late curator of Indian art at the Boston Museum of Fine Arts, was unexcelled in his knowledge of the arts of the Orient, and unmatched in his understanding of Indian culture, language, religion, and philosophy. In this excellent reprint of a rare volume of essays, he reveals the essence of the Indian experience, rooted in "a constant intuition" of the unity and harmony of all life. Everything has its place, every being its function and all play a part in the divine concert led by Natarājā (Śiva), Lord of Dancers. In a series of 14 stimulating and provocative essays, Coomaraswamy unfolds the vast metaphysic of India: the magnificent revelation of its art; its conception of the universe; social organization; attitudes toward feminism; problems of family; romantic love, and marriage. His sweeping commentary considers the "intellectual fraternity" of mankind; the venerable past as it survives side by side with emerging modern India; and the individual, autonomy, and repudiation of "the will to govern." Enhancing the text are 27 black-and-white photographs — mostly of masterpieces of painting and sculpture from the second century B.C. to the eighteenth century, and including the glorious "Cosmic Dance of Nàtaraja." This handsome volume offers rich insight into the art, philosophy, and culture of a fascinating forty-centuries-old civilization.

30 review for The Dance of Siva: Essays on Indian Art and Culture

  1. 5 out of 5

    Nandakishore Mridula

    A long time back, when I first became active on the fora of the Joseph Campbell Forum website, I downloaded a list of books which the renowned mythologist had given his students as required reading at Sarah Lawrence College. I found this book among them. But it was out of print at that time, and I could source a copy only now – with Rupa Publishers reprinting it. Coomaraswamy’s metaphor of the cosmic dance of Shiva is well known to many, even to those who don’t know him: I first came across it du A long time back, when I first became active on the fora of the Joseph Campbell Forum website, I downloaded a list of books which the renowned mythologist had given his students as required reading at Sarah Lawrence College. I found this book among them. But it was out of print at that time, and I could source a copy only now – with Rupa Publishers reprinting it. Coomaraswamy’s metaphor of the cosmic dance of Shiva is well known to many, even to those who don’t know him: I first came across it during the late seventies, in Fritjof Capra’s seminal book on New Age science, The Tao of Physics: An Exploration of the Parallels between Modern Physics and Eastern Mysticism. At that time, to my teenage brain filled with grand ideas of the ultimate merger of Indian mysticism with higher physics, this was a revolutionary concept worth tripping on; you just close your eyes and meditate on all those atoms, protons, neutrons, quasars, planets, galaxies and whatnot dancing around the space-time continuum and – bingo! Niravana. Well, I have been disabused of such naive imaginings as I grew older, and learnt more about Indian history and culture – and that it was not the one mystical love-fest the New Agers and the hippies made it out to be. True, India had a lot of great philosophical thought; a beautiful and colourful mythical heritage; and perhaps the world’s greatest epic literature. But the societal system, built on the strict hierarchy of caste, was horrendous: with the top layer existing parasitically on labours of the downtrodden bottom one. Which is why when I finally got around to reading Coomaraswamy, I was sorely disappointed. Ananda Coomaraswamy This book was first published in 1918 – and sadly, it shows. This was the time when the Indian pride was on the upswing as a reaction against foreign domination and its consequent westernisation. For the apologists, anything Indian was divinely sublime. It was not a question of accepting her, warts and all; but exhorting those same warts as the epitome of beauty. This blind admiration of Indian culture runs as one of the main themes of this book – the other being the ‘divine’ nature of Indian art, where there is no separation of devotion, myth, and the artistic insight. While I largely concur with the second (Campbell’s argument that the artist is the myth-maker in modern society resonates with me), the ‘superiority’ of Indian (or Eastern) culture to that of the West is highly debatable. The book comprises fourteen essays. Of these, seven deal in totality and one partially with Indian art; four are paeans to Indian culture; and one each is in homage to Shakespeare and Nietzsche respectively. The essays are of varying quality – from extremely well-expressed to boringly repetitive. Let me start with the key one, ‘The Dance of Shiva’. Shiva needs no introduction to the well-read person. He is the God who dances. When he is happy, he does the ‘Ananda Thandava’, the dance of happiness – and in anger, he dances the ‘Samhara Thandava’, destroying the universe in totality. He is full of esoteric symbolism: he wears the moon and the river Ganges in his matted hair locks; wears serpents as garlands; wears cloths made out of tiger and elephant skins; and his body is covered with the ash from funeral pyres. In his avatar as Nataraja (‘The Lord of Dance’), he dances within a circle of fire, trampling on the demon Muyalaka with his right foot, the left one raised, drum in his right hand fire in his left. He is the patron god of dance. Commaraswamy does a detailed analysis of the five types of dance Shiva does, with extensive and fascinating quotes from mythical literature. This fact itself makes it worth reading. However, it is when he comes to the metaphoric analysis of this dance that we understand how this essay has stood the test of time and influenced a number of people over the years. The Dancing Shiva Coomaraswamy sees it essentially as the interplay of the feminine Prakriti, matter, nature, symbolised by the fire circle – the dancing God, touching it at four points with his head, arms and foot, is Purusha, the masculine omnipresent spirit animating it. He writes: The Essential Significance of Shiva’s Dance is threefold: First, it is the image of his Rhythmic Play as the Source of all Movement within the Cosmos, which is Represented by the Arch: Secondly, the Purpose of his Dance is to Release the Countless souls of men from the Snare of Illusion: Thirdly the Place of the Dance, Chidambaram, the Centre of the Universe, is within the Heart. (For those of us who have had our tryst with mysticism in the post-Fritjof Capra era, this may be old hat. Shiva’s cosmic dance has been done to death across a lot of platforms – literary, religious and mystic. But it is when we realise the Coomaraswamy’s vision is from a century ago, that we begin to appreciate its originality.) He gushes on: How amazing the range of thought and sympathy of those rishi-artists who first conceived such a type as this, affording an image of reality, a key to the complex tissue of life, a theory of nature, not merely satisfactory to a single clique or race, nor acceptable to the thinkers of one century only, but universal in its appeal to the philosopher, the lover, and the artist of all ages and all countries. How supremely great in power and grace this dancing image must appear to all those who have striven in plastic forms to give expression to their intuition of Life! ... In the night of Brahma, Nature is inert, and cannot dance till Shiva wills it: He rises from His rapture, and dancing sends through inert matter pulsing waves of awakening sound, and lo! matter also dances appearing as a glory round about Him. Dancing, He sustains its manifold phenomena. In the fulness of time, still dancing, he destroys all forms and names by fire and gives new rest. This is poetry; but none the less, science. Yes indeed. As a connoisseur of art, dance and literature, I will emphatically say that this image is worth tripping on! *** Now, coming to the essays on Indian art and music: it would be tempting to analyse each one in detail, but the exigencies of time and space compel one to economise. So I would just elaborate upon the common thread running across them, so as to emphasise the author’s intentions. One must bear in mind that at the time of the writing of this book, India was an area of darkness to the majority in the West: it was all “Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom” stuff. So Coomaraswamy is at pains to justify the beauty of Indian art, mostly abstract and non-representational, to a largely unsympathetic European audience (it is amusing in some cases, as in the essay ‘Indian Images with Many Arms’, where he is at pains to point out that these are metaphorical and not meant to represent reality: elementary school stuff nowadays, in the age of ‘Guernica’). Similarly, he points out the difference between Indian and Western music; the former is purely melodic while the latter is harmonic. Similarly, Indian art is non-representational. There is no perspective, no attempt to render ‘reality’ as such; and ultimately, there is no individuality to the work of art, or the artist. This total self-effacement of the creator is peculiar to Eastern art because the artist is not important. He does not create, but just renders what is divinely inspired in him through meditation. He is just a conduit for the art to flow through; the source is the Brahman, the essential Godhead that exists within one and all. Religion and art thus names for one and the same experience—an intuition of reality and of identity. ...When every ascetic and every soldier has become an artist there will be no more need for works of art: in the meanwhile ethical selection of some kind is allowable and necessary. But in this selection we must clearly understand what we are doing, if we would avoid any infinity of error, culminating in that type of sentimentality which regards the useful, the stimulating and the moral elements in works of art as the essential. Coomaraswamy’s insights on the concept of beauty in art, linking with the rasa concept of Indian aesthetics, is also enlightening. Only when we judge a work of art aesthetically we may speak of the presence or absence of beauty, we may call the work rasavant or otherwise; but when we judge it from the standpoint of activity, practical or ethical, we ought to use a corresponding terminology, calling the picture, song or actor “lovely” that is to say lovable, or otherwise, the action “noble,” the colour “brilliant,” the gesture “graceful,” or otherwise, and so forth, and it will be seen that in doing this we are not really judging the work of art as such, but only the material and the separate parts of which it is made, the activities they represent, or the feelings they express. ... Beauty can never thus be measured, for it does not exist apart from the artist himself, and the rasika who enters into his experience. There are no degrees of beauty; the most complex and the simplest expression remind us of one and the same state. The sonata cannot be more beautiful than the simplest lyric, nor the painting than the drawing, merely because of their greater elaboration. Civilized art is not more beautiful than the savage art, merely because of its possibly more attractive ethos. A mathematical analogy is found if we consider large and small circles; these differ only in their content, not in their circularity. Another essay which was interesting was on the concept of ‘Sahaja’ – amorous love that transcends the physical, typically represented by Radha’s love for Krishna in Indian mythology. In his lectures, Campbell also talks at great length on this, albeit in a different context – the love of the troubadour for his lady. In the field of poesy, we can see this in the concept of the muse, exemplified by Dante’s obsession with Beatrice. *** Well, now for the negatives. Even with all these superb, pioneering insights into Indian art and aesthetics, I cannot love this book for its unabashed endorsement of the Indian caste system and the subservient role of women. The author sees the stratified Indian society as the epitome of social engineering, with the Brahmins at the top the equivalent of the philosopher kings envisaged by Plato. He feels that the Indian woman, whose career comprises solely of her husband and family, is the ‘ideal’ to strive for: for him, the emancipated western woman is an aberration. He considers the obnoxious ‘Laws of Manu’ as the absolute gospel. I will let Coomaraswamy speak for himself: On the caste system: The heart and essence of the Indian experience is to be found in a constant intuition of the unity of all life, and the instinctive and ineradicable conviction that the recognition of this unity is the highest good and the uttermost freedom. All that India can offer to the world proceeds from her philosophy. This philosophy is not, indeed, unknown to others—it is equally the gospel of Jesus and of Blake, Lao Tze, and Rumi—but nowhere else has it been made the essential basis of sociology and education. ...We must not judge of Indian society, especially Indian society in its present moment of decay, as if it actually realized the Brahmanical social ideas; yet even with all its imperfections Hindu society as it survives will appear to many to be superior to any form of social organization attained on a large scale anywhere else, and infinitely superior to the social order which we know as “modern civilization.” ...it can hardly be denied that the Brahmanical caste system is the nearest approach that has yet been made towards a society where there shall be no attempt to realise a competitive quality, but where all interests are regarded as identical. To those who admit the variety of age in human souls, this must appear to be the only true communism. On the status of Indian women: The Asiatic theory of marriage, which would have been perfectly comprehensible in the Middle Ages, before the European woman had become an economic parasite, and which is still very little removed from that of Roman or Greek Christianity, is not readily intelligible to the industrial democratic consciousness of Europe and America, which is so much more concerned for rights than for duties, and desires more than anything else to be released from responsibilities—regarding such release as freedom. It is thus that Western reformers would awaken a divine discontent in the hearts of Oriental women, forgetting that the way of ego-assertion cannot be a royal road to realisation of the Self. The industrial mind is primarily sentimental, and therefore cannot reason clearly upon love and marriage; but the Asiatic analysis is philosophic, religious and practical. ... It is sometimes asked, what opportunities are open to the Oriental woman? How can she express herself? The answer is that life is so designed that she is given the opportunity to be a woman—in other words, to realize, rather than to express herself. ...The Eastern woman is not, at least we do not claim that she is, superior to other women in her innermost nature; she is perhaps an older, purer and more specialized type, but certainly an universal type, and it is precisely here that the industrial woman departs from type. Nobility in women does not depend upon race, but upon ideals; it is the outcome of a certain view of life. And as if this was not enough, he justifies arranged marriage, and even ‘Sati’ – where the wife immolated herself on the funeral pyre of her husband! The industrial revolution in India is of external and very recent origin; there is no lack of men, and it is the sacred duty of parents to arrange a marriage for every daughter: there is no divergence of what is spiritual and what is sensuous: Indian women do not deform their bodies in the interests of fashion: they are more concerned about service than rights: they consider barrenness the greatest possible misfortune, after widowhood. In a word, it has never happened in India that women have been judged by or have accepted purely male standards. What possible service then, except in a few externals, can the Western world render to Eastern women? Though it may be able to teach us much of the means of life, it has everything yet to relearn about life itself. And what we still remember there, we would not forget before we must. ... The criticism we make on the institution of Sati and woman’s blind devotion is similar to the final judgment we are about to pass on patriotism. We do not, as pragmatists may, resent the denial of the ego for the sake of an absolute, or attach an undue importance to mere life; on the contrary we see clearly that the reckless and useless sacrifice of the ‘suttee’ and the patriot is spiritually significant. And what remains perpetually clear is the superiority of the reckless sacrifice to the calculating assertion of rights. Criticism of the position of the Indian woman from the ground of assertive feminism, therefore, leaves us entirely unmoved: precisely as the patriot must be unmoved by an appeal to self-interest or a merely utilitarian demonstration of futility. We do not object to dying for an idea as ‘suttees’ and patriots have died; but we see that there may be other and greater ideas we can better serve by living for them. I can now hear people saying: “Come on! You can’t judge an early twentieth century text by today’s sensibilities! Coomaraswamy was a man of his time, and we have to cut him some historical slack.” Uh-huh. Nothing doing. This sugar-coating of the dark underbelly of India’s so-called ‘Arsha’ culture over a period of time – this refusal to call a spade a spade – has resulted in where my country is standing today, with atrocities against Dalits and women so commonplace that they are most of the time relegated to footnotes in the newspaper. Sorry, Mr. Coomaraswamy, I put you in the dock with other apologists for traditional Indian society. You don’t get even judicial mercy in my court. This is what dragged down the book from a possible four to two stars for me: or, to put it the other way around, the author’s original insights on Indian art and ethos lifted it up from a miserable zero stars.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Victor Finn

    This book is a collection of fourteen very different and intellectually stimulating essays on Hinduism by Ananda Coomaraswamy, who used to be the curator for Indian Art at the Boston Fine Arts Museum. If I were to take each essay individually, I would have to give the book five out of five because each essay is wonderfully written as Ananda writes like a mystical poet and an intelligent essayist at the same time. However, taken as a whole I must give this book four out of five because Ananda cle This book is a collection of fourteen very different and intellectually stimulating essays on Hinduism by Ananda Coomaraswamy, who used to be the curator for Indian Art at the Boston Fine Arts Museum. If I were to take each essay individually, I would have to give the book five out of five because each essay is wonderfully written as Ananda writes like a mystical poet and an intelligent essayist at the same time. However, taken as a whole I must give this book four out of five because Ananda clearly contradicts himself. In essays like "Individuality, Autonomy, and Function" and "What has India contributed to civilization?" Ananda praises the Hindu caste system as being just, and decries western democracy because of its belief in Equality which creates a great deal of harm as opposed to good (the road to hell is paved with good intentions). I totally agree with this assessment. However, in "Young India" he decries the caste system as being outdated and says that India must assist in creating a universalist and globalist fraternity. The other big problem I have with this book is Ananda's assessment of Nietzsche. Ananda is quite fond of Nietzsche, as am I, and he points out lots of correlations in Nietzschean and Hindu thought that I never thought of before. The Caste System is the Will to Power put into politics, and Nietzsche's views on virtue being individualistic ("let your virtue be in your deed like the mother is in the child") correlates nicely with Hinduism's Monistic ethics. Nietzsche and Hindu Philosophers also often speak of the unity of things. However, Ananda keeps insisting that the Hindu Jivanmukta ideal and Nietzsche's Ubermensch ideal are not only similar but actually precisely the same. A Jivanmukta is someone who has achieved spiritual enlightenment within their lifetime and still has a physical body. Chaitanya is often cited as an example of a Jivanmukta, and he achieved enlightenment through worshipping Krishna. Nietzsche is an atheist and isn't fond of worshipping God(s) to say the least. One achieves Jivanmukta-hood through renunciation, but the Ubermensch is a life-affirmer. Really, a Jivamukta is more like the God-Lover Zarathustra meets as he exits the woods in the prologue of Thus Spoke Zarathustra. I genuinely have a hard time wrapping my head around how someone as well-read as Ananda could think those two very different things are similar at all. The best essays in this book were the ones dealing with Hindu aesthetics. The Hindu believes that God is everywhere and within everything and everyone, and because Beauty is a divine quality everything is beautiful. When we see something as beautiful what is actually happening in that moment is that we merely DISCOVER the beauty in it when before we didn't see it. If we could see the world with the eyes of a spiritually enlightened being we would see everything as beautiful all the time. A painting isn't innately beautiful, it is just a collection of colours, shapes, etc. If we see it as beautiful it is God revealing a bit of himself through the painting. The two biggest insights I will take away from this book are that in order to grow as an artist we must be without ego. Ananda writes that the Poet, Musician, etc can't progress in his trade unless he makes "inwardly empty" (an idea similar to humility) which makes him a conduit for divine inspiration, and allows the Divinity to express itself through him. Self-Forgetfulness is the key to artistic mastery. The other big insight is that aesthetic contemplation is a kind of Spiritual Enlightenment. When we are transfixed by the beauty of something our minds are stilled and we gently concentrate our whole attention on it. This is a state just like meditation. The more absorbed we are by something the more we forget ourselves, and the more we are filled with an ecstatic feeling. This is just like the high meditative states of absorption where the mind is emptied of ego, and feelings of sublime blissfulness arise in the mind in their place. Finally, if we are transfixed by something beautiful for long enough we feel as if the subject/object divide has collapsed a little. This is just like Samadhi, a word synonymous with spiritual enlightenment and the highest possible state of meditation, where we discover through direct experience that there has never been a difference between subject and object at all. Awesome. All in all, I highly recommend this book to anyone who is fond of Hinduism and likes to read essays.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Vidhya Nair

    The best part of this book is really the essay on the dance of shiva which continues to hold importance significance and relevance to today’s readers. The rest of the essays are tailored for western audience understanding, so it feels dated and almost primitive in its perspective. Yet the value of his work is to help us understand the clear differences in indian thought. I was impressed with his postulation that the acquiring of the English and higher education in the west will be detrimental an The best part of this book is really the essay on the dance of shiva which continues to hold importance significance and relevance to today’s readers. The rest of the essays are tailored for western audience understanding, so it feels dated and almost primitive in its perspective. Yet the value of his work is to help us understand the clear differences in indian thought. I was impressed with his postulation that the acquiring of the English and higher education in the west will be detrimental and contribute to the decline of indian thought and philosophy. Now more than 80 years later, perhaps he has been proven right.

  4. 4 out of 5

    dely

    Sinceramente, con tutti i libri che ho già letto sull'India e la sua cultura, questo non aggiunge molto a ciò che già sapevo. Anzi, in altri libri ho trovato gli stessi temi spiegati in modo più approfondito, scorrevole e semplice, e senza l'aggiunta delle opinioni personali dell'autore (spesso discutibili). Questo libro contiene dei brevi articoli scritti dall'autore nei primi anni del 1900 che parlano soprattutto dell'arte indiana: la scultura, la pittura, la danza, la musica e il teatro. Gli Sinceramente, con tutti i libri che ho già letto sull'India e la sua cultura, questo non aggiunge molto a ciò che già sapevo. Anzi, in altri libri ho trovato gli stessi temi spiegati in modo più approfondito, scorrevole e semplice, e senza l'aggiunta delle opinioni personali dell'autore (spesso discutibili). Questo libro contiene dei brevi articoli scritti dall'autore nei primi anni del 1900 che parlano soprattutto dell'arte indiana: la scultura, la pittura, la danza, la musica e il teatro. Gli argomenti, però, vengono affrontanti in pochissime pagine e citando solo le parti più importanti. Se non si conosce già un po' la cultura hindu, si rischia di non capirci niente (l'edizione Adelphi che ho letto non ha glossario e ci sono soltanto pochissime note). Diciamo che c'è troppo in poche pagine e l'autore dà per scontato che il lettore conosca la mitologia e la terminologia induista, quindi sono dei brevi saggi molto ricchi e intensi, con un linguaggio alquanto difficile. Altri capitoli affrontano temi sempre legati all'India: la condizione della donna in cui l'autore paragona la donna occidentale a quella indiana; c'è un capitolo in cui paragona l'Übermensch di Nietzsche al jivanmukta; altri capitoli parlano del sistema sociale delle caste, dell'anarchia, dello sviluppo economico dell'India, etc. Bisogna però tener conto che questi saggi sono stati scritti nei primi anni del XX secolo quindi alcuni temi sono un po' datati. La condizione della donna, per esempio, non è più come l'ha descritta l'autore, né in Occidente né in India; lo sviluppo economico, e la liberazione dal colonialismo, l'India li ha ormai raggiunti. Bisogna però dire che gli scritti di Coomaraswamy sono sicuramente stati importanti negli anni in cui li ha scritti perché è riuscito a far conoscere meglio la cultura hindu in Occidente in modo che le persone potessero avvicinarsi ad essa e comprenderla. Anche in questi articoli, per esempio, spiega il simbolismo delle divinità con più braccia o con teste di animali, spiega il perché dei matrimoni combinati o del sistema delle caste che all'epoca potevano sembrare cose assurde e inaccettabili. Ci sono alcuni spunti molto interessanti e tutto sommato è un libro interessante, però per me è stata una lettura pesante sia per il linguaggio, sia perché di alcuni argomenti avevo già letto altrove in modo più scorrevole a approfondito. Per quanto riguarda il linguaggio, leggendo delle recensioni inglesi, sembra che in inglese sia molto semplice e scorrevole. Non vorrei che fosse la traduzione Adelphi a lasciar desiderare e non sarebbe la prima volta. L'anno scorso ho comprato Così parlò Zarathustra a mio figlio e conoscendo il tedesco volevo prendergli la traduzione migliore. Ho scaricato l'ebook in lingua originale, ne ho letto il primo capitolo e ho paragonato 4-5 traduzioni italiane. La traduzione dell'Adelphi era quella che più si allontanava dall'originale di Nietzsche perché utilizzava un linguaggio erudito e ricercato, mentre il tedesco di Nietzsche è semplice e scorrevole.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Jason Gregory

    Like with any Ananda Coomaraswamy book, you are in for a profound scholarly work with "The Dance of Shiva." He gives the rest of us an amazing insight into what life was like in India under British rule and how this dramatically effected Indian culture. His understanding of Indian culture is like no other. If you are interested in knowing more about the spiritual and psychological significance of Indian marriage, caste system, or art, then you are in for a treat. But be prepared to face the hars Like with any Ananda Coomaraswamy book, you are in for a profound scholarly work with "The Dance of Shiva." He gives the rest of us an amazing insight into what life was like in India under British rule and how this dramatically effected Indian culture. His understanding of Indian culture is like no other. If you are interested in knowing more about the spiritual and psychological significance of Indian marriage, caste system, or art, then you are in for a treat. But be prepared to face the harsh truth of how Western culture has lost a lot of what the East still embodies, which is something that continually needs to be explored for Westerners to learn from the Eastern mind

  6. 4 out of 5

    John Blee

    I read this book when I was in high school in India and it opened up many aspects of Indian art and culture that made me then and now informed about the deeper underlying meanings. Art historians debate Coomaraswamy today and certainly there has been much revision in dating. But there is no one who has opened so many doors on the metaphysics of Indian Art. Reading Coomaraswamy is a life-task.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Ajay

    Brilliant essays to be honest. But my level of understanding is not good. I need to re read this book.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Guruprasad

    nice book to know about Indian religion . art . music . and dance

  9. 5 out of 5

    Arun

    A remarkable collection of essays, but if you, like me, find philosophical analyses hard to fully grasp on first reading, then most of the essays are worth a second read. In particular, it takes some effort to assess the quality of the arguments (both good and bad) that the author brings to the topic being analysed, particularly where his position is rather out-of-place with current modern thinking. To take a couple of examples here, the first essay on "What has India contributed to Indian welfar A remarkable collection of essays, but if you, like me, find philosophical analyses hard to fully grasp on first reading, then most of the essays are worth a second read. In particular, it takes some effort to assess the quality of the arguments (both good and bad) that the author brings to the topic being analysed, particularly where his position is rather out-of-place with current modern thinking. To take a couple of examples here, the first essay on "What has India contributed to Indian welfare", where he makes a spirited defense of caste as a sound socio-religious way to organize human society, or the one on "Status of Indian Woman" where he puts forth a similar defense of the idea of arranged marriage using notions of group morality, the conception of freedom as not being the same as self-assertion, and coming at it from the standpoint of western industrialism, highlighting what that has robbed women of, often at the cost of not recognizing the different qualities of men and women. He even marshalls arguments on the sound basis of Sati even while deploring its practice in modern times. Of course, Ananda Coomoraswamy is more well know as an art historian, and there isn't anything much to quibble with on the essays dedicated to the topics, such as "That beauty is a state", "The Hindu view of art", "The Dance of Shiva" (generally considered his best essay) etc. They are rather wonderful though for someone not involved in the arts, it will require some patience to understand fully. There are 1-2 essays that I didn't quite understand (e.g. "Indian Music") but that's more because of my limitation on the subject. Returning to the broader socio-religious essays, the reason I suggest a second reading is to sift the good arguments from the bad (as I see it, at least). For instance, I quite liked his contrasting of Brahman sociology that seeks to balance inward movement ("nivritti marga", i.e. self-realization) and outward movement ("pravritti marga", i.e. self-assertion) from alternate ideas such as Puritanism that forces an absolute ethic on all irrespective of age, or the way of the industrial society that takes competition and self-assertion for granted, with little consideration for philosophy and self-realization. On the other hand, his arguments for 'heredity' driven caste organization do not wash. He takes the easy way out here when he realizes the weakness of that argument, to quote "...if they were wrong on this point, then it remains for others to discover some better way of achieving the same ends". Similarly, consider this - "...the nature of the difference between a Brahman and a Shudra is indicated in the view that a Shudra can do no wrong, a view that must make an immense demand on the patience of the higher castes and is the absolute converse of the Western doctrine that the king can do no wrong". On the face of it, seems clever, but there is little in our history that affirms anything of that sort being the reality. This is the problem with his desire to prove the soundness of Brahmanical socio-religious organization. He goes to some length to affirm the essential human understanding that drove this kind of organization, but pays almost no heed to actual practice, imagining instead some ideal society that lived according to those standards, in his words, "...India is a co-operative society in a state of decline". He is on sounder footing in articulating the problems caused by the industrial organization of the west, and his desire to bring forth a post-industrial society. In his view, this is a society to which India's religious philosophy can offer a great deal. That could well be the case (think yoga, meditation etc. for instance), but caste-based organization cannot be the way forward. Aside, I believe he was the first person to use the term "post-industrial". A bit of quizzing trivia there. I could write similarly about his arguments in the essays on the "Status of Indian women" and the interesting one on "Sahaja", but this review has gone long enough. So will leave it here. In sum, I think this is a great collection of essays, a few of which I would certainly like to revisit. If you have a natural affinity to Indian thought, it is likely you will appreciate it more. If you don't, it is likely the non-art essays will irritate you unless you suspend your instinct to judge it as you are reading it.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Sriram

    A must-read for anyone interested in the basics of Ancient Hindu/Indian aesthetics. In many ways, a co-text to Will Durant's Preface to The Story of Philosophy. Personally, thios book validated a lot of my notions of the all-encompassing nature of the Indian mind, which sees thought and action as, more or less, two heads on one body. The East and West are similar in many ways, but a primary difference is the notion of Difference itself. This is an oversimplification. The book uses a very accessib A must-read for anyone interested in the basics of Ancient Hindu/Indian aesthetics. In many ways, a co-text to Will Durant's Preface to The Story of Philosophy. Personally, thios book validated a lot of my notions of the all-encompassing nature of the Indian mind, which sees thought and action as, more or less, two heads on one body. The East and West are similar in many ways, but a primary difference is the notion of Difference itself. This is an oversimplification. The book uses a very accessible flow of language. Just one other of its many marks of true scholarship.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Mekhala Pande

    Ananda Kentish Coomaraswamy has a mind like a diamond. Look no further than this book for a lucid and poetic introduction to South Asian/Indian art, music and a smattering of philosophy. We recognise here, just as in the painting and sculpture, what is eternal in all art,and universal-impassioned vision based on understanding, correlated with cloudless thought and devoid of sentimentality.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Beloo Mehra

    Highly thought-provoking and contemplative at the same time. Not an easy read...richly layered and complex, requires multiple readings and serious reflection. Will surely be visiting this little but heavy book several times.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Arvind Srinivasan

    Reviews are in audio format In tamil - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9iKtL... In english - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yrCMp... Reviews are in audio format In tamil - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9iKtL... In english - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yrCMp...

  14. 4 out of 5

    Nithesh Satish

    This books gave me some great insights, but the academic part went over my head. Probably I must read it again to understand the entire meaning of the book. I felt that the writer lost his narrative in several essays where he goes into description of art or theorising his ideas.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Alessandro Veneri

    Saggi sul “sahaja” e sulla musica indiana fortemente consigliati!

  16. 4 out of 5

    Michael Lloyd-Billington

  17. 5 out of 5

    Walter Lazzarin

  18. 4 out of 5

    Painting

  19. 4 out of 5

    Brett Childs

  20. 5 out of 5

    Kalki Vendatta

  21. 5 out of 5

    Vishal Singh

  22. 5 out of 5

    Sharad Misra

  23. 5 out of 5

    Venus Harris

  24. 5 out of 5

    Shraddha Jadhav

  25. 4 out of 5

    Bob

  26. 4 out of 5

    Girish Singh

  27. 5 out of 5

    Christopher Hurtado

  28. 5 out of 5

    Subhash Kak

  29. 5 out of 5

    Sampurna

  30. 5 out of 5

    James Sass

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